I have never had to live in a really bad neighborhood. But my wife did. When she was 18 and 19, she lived in a really bad neighborhood in a city which, at the time, had the highest homicide rates in America. She got mugged, got in the middle of a shooting, and dealt with a lot of sketchy characters on a daily basis – but never once got injured or lost (much of) her belongings. These tips on how to survive a bad neighborhood mostly come from her real-life experience.
Nothing will make you more of a target then looking like you don’t belong in the neighborhood. Now, blending in doesn’t mean you have to start wearing the latest ghetto fashions and adopt a swagger to your walk. Blending in is all about showing that you are comfortable in the surroundings.
The worst thing you can do is show fear. Fear has a scent and, believe me, it isn’t just dogs which can pick up on it! Hold your head up when you walk. Don’t quicken your pace out of fear. Don’t keep looking over your shoulders. And don’t cross the street to avoid a shady-looking character. This will just make you look scared. If you see a group of suspicious people, then avoid that street (city streets are usually really short). Better yet, scope out the street before you turn down it. If there is a large group on one side, then stay on the other side of the street or avoid that street completely.
If someone is looking at you, just be polite (yes, be polite!). Smile and say “Hello” and walk on. Or give them a head nod. Obviously, there are some situations where you wouldn’t want to be so polite – like if you are a woman and a man is leering at you. But, if the man says something to you (such as a lewd “how ya doin’ baby?”), just answer sternly (“Fine, thanks.”) and keep walking.
Getting lost in a bad neighborhood can be a death sentence if you don’t handle it properly. Never show that you are lost! Just keep walking and acting like you know where you are going. Never stop in the middle of the street to check directions on your phone, and don't ask anyone for directions. When you see a store, go inside and then check the GPS on your phone. Ask for directions as a last resort.
A sketchy character is coming towards you and you think you are done for? In these situations, my wife would follow a great survival trick: she’d act crazy.
Her method was to go to the nearest trash can and start looking through it. She’d also twitch a little bit. It made her look like some crazy lady.
Nobody wants to mess with a crazy person! They are unpredictable. If you wave a gun in front of a sane person’s face and tell him/her to hand over their money, they will be rational and listen. But you never know how a crazy person will react, which is why acting crazy can save you from being targeted.
Never Keep Cash and Cards All In One Place
The first week that my wife moved to the bad neighborhood, she was mugged. It was by two heroin addicts, one of which probably had a gun (he was pointing it at her through his jacket, so it might not have actually been a gun).
But thieves are lazy by nature. Especially muggers.
Instead of grabbing her purse, they simply said “give us your money!”
My wife actually had more than $300 on her that day. But instead of handing it all over, she reached into her purse and pulled out a $5 bill. The muggers were ecstatic, grabbed the money, and ran off.
That experience taught my wife a valuable lesson. On occasions where she had to carry large sums of cash, she divided it up: some in her wallet, some in her pocket, some in her bra… When she got mugged again, she just handed over the money in her wallet.
If you primarily use credit and debit cards, then you will want to do the same. Keep one card in your wallet and another in your pocket or other area. This way, you will still have at least one card if the others get stolen.
Avoid walking in bad neighborhoods. Try to avoid public transportation too, because this means you will have to spend a lot of time waiting at street corners for the bus. But, if you live in the ghetto, you probably can't afford a car. Instead, ride a bike. And get a big U lock for it! You will be going too fast on your bike to become a target.
Beware of Teenagers
Believe it or not, teens are often a lot more dangerous than adults. They are bored, lacking any discipline, and have poor judgment. And, unlike with most adult criminals, juveniles usually lack any clear motive such as to rob your money. They just want to make chaos.
Don’t believe me? Just read the news. Recently there was a woman in Chicago who was attacked by a gang of teenagers while in her car with her two small children. In Philadelphia, a group of teens attacked a man in his 50s waiting for the subway. In Houston last year, the perpetrators of a violent crime spree were teenagers.
When my wife was living in the bad neighborhood, it was groups of 12 YEAR OLDS who would wait at intersections and start chasing and hitting people. She always made sure to ride her bike extra fast when she saw a group of 3 or more kids together!
Why did they do it? No good reason at all! So beware of groups of juveniles.
Know Where the Police Are
This is a good tip which I actually picked up from a Hardy Boys book when I was a kid. When you are worried that you are being followed, or need to be flee, then head towards the nearest police station. The moment the bad guy sees where you are, he is going to go away and fast!
Sneakers and Boots Only
Forget about high heels and sandals. If you ever need to run or fight an attacker, you will want to have sturdy shoes on. The sneakers are better for running, and a kick to the groin with steel-toed boots will make attackers drop to their knees. If you’ve got to wear heels, then put them on when you get to your destination.
Know How to Defend Yourself
If someone tries to rob you in a bad neighborhood, never try to resist. It simply isn’t worth the risk. But you might find yourself in a situation where you need to defend yourself. Further, knowing self-defense skills and having a weapon will boost your confidence so you are less likely to look afraid while in the bad neighborhood – and looking afraid is the worst thing you can do!
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